identity, impoliteness and integration in online

of 26 /26 Forum Filologiczne Ateneum 1(8)2020 pp. 75-100 75 Identity, impoliteness and integration in online immigration discourse Tożsamość, niegrzeczność i integracja w internetowym dyskursie imigracyjnym Anna BĄCZKOWSKA 1 University of Gdańsk Ljiljana ŠARIĆ 2 University of Oslo (Norway) Abstract The paper presents an analysis of the language used on the Internet (social media) by Poles living in Norway. Emphasis is placed on identity construction, integration and impoliteness strategies. The material presented in this study was retrieved from a corpus which was collected as part of a project devoted to national identity in immigration discourse. The method of analysis presented in this paper follows Culpeper’s (1996) taxonomy of impoliteness strategies. The data under inspection illustrate several types of positive and negative impoliteness. The results of the study demonstrate that the Polish diaspora in Norway is only partially integrated and that the language Poles use while writing both about the Norwegians and, in particular, about other Poles is imbued with insults, negative associations and derogatory nominations. Keywords: identity, impoliteness, immigration discourse 1 University of Gdańsk, Institute of English and American Studies, English Language and Theoretical Linguistics Division [email protected] 2 University of Oslo, Norway Department of Literature, Area Studies and European Languages [email protected]

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Microsoft Word - 006 Baczkowska 2020.docAbstract
The paper presents an analysis of the language used on the Internet (social media) by Poles living in Norway. Emphasis is placed on identity construction, integration and impoliteness strategies. The material presented in this study was retrieved from a corpus which was collected as part of a project devoted to national identity in immigration discourse. The method of analysis presented in this paper follows Culpeper’s (1996) taxonomy of impoliteness strategies. The data under inspection illustrate several types of positive and negative impoliteness. The results of the study demonstrate that the Polish diaspora in Norway is only partially integrated and that the language Poles use while writing both about the Norwegians and, in particular, about other Poles is imbued with insults, negative associations and derogatory nominations. Keywords: identity, impoliteness, immigration discourse
University of Gdask, Institute of English and American Studies, English Language and Theoretical Linguistics Division [email protected]
2 University of Oslo, Norway Department of Literature, Area Studies and European Languages [email protected]
Celem artykuu jest opis dyskursu uywanego w mediach spoecznociowych przez Polaków mieszkajcych w Norwegii. W celu przeprowadzenia analizy utworzono korpus danych zebranych z mediów spoecznociowych, w przewaajcej mierze z forów internetowych prowadzonych przez Polaków. Korpus ten utworzono w ramach projektu powiconego badaniu tosamoci narodowej w dyskursie imigracyjnym. Badanie ukierunkowane byo na wyszukiwanie wypowiedze wiadczcych o wyaniajcej si tosamoci polskich imigrantów w Norwegii, na identyfikacji uywanych przez nich strategii integracji z ludnoci rdzenn oraz na analizie jzyka, którego uywaj wypowiadajc si na forach na wspomniane tematy. Jzyk badany by pod ktem uywania strategii niegrzecznoci przez uczestników forów internetowych w oparciu o taksonomi zaproponowan przez J. Culpepera (1996). Przeprowadzona analiza wykazaa istnienie jedynie czciowej integracji polskich imigrantów z Norwegami oraz wyanianie si trzech typów tosamoci. Na poziomie analizy jzyka zidentyfikowano kilka rodzajów pozytywnej i negatywnej niegrzecznoci (positive/negative impoliteness). Zaobserwowano wysok okurencj wypowiedzi przesiknitych obelgami, negatywnymi skojarzeniami i obraliwymi nominacjami skierowanymi do przedstawicieli polskich imigrantów w Norwegii. Sowa kluczowe: tosamo, niegrzeczno, dyskurs imigracyjny
1. Introduction and theoretical preliminaries
This analysis3 concentrates on online discourse and is based on texts written by
Polish immigrants to Norway. The material was collected from the internet,
primarily from several online forums run by Poles living in Norway, yet
occasionally extracts from blogs and comments to articles are also referred to.
The method of data analysis follows Culpeper’s (1996) taxonomy
of impoliteness strategies.
This section will provide an overview of relevant research, as well as
some theoretical considerations related to the concepts important for this
analysis, including specific features of online communication, and
the connection between immigration discourse, identity construction
and impoliteness. Section 2 presents the data collection and method, Section 3
is devoted to data analysis, and Section 4 provides concluding remarks.
1.1. Computer-mediated communication Online communication, by and large, is characterized by a number of features
that share elements of both spoken and written discourse. Even outside
3 This article is part of research activities of the project Discourses of the Nation and the National, based at ILOS, University of Oslo. The research was funded by the project.
Identity, impoliteness and integration in online immigration discourse
of the computer-mediated communication (CMC) provenance, often, the clear
divide between what makes a spoken discourse vs. written discourse is claimed
to be hazy, blurred and misleading (McCarthy 1993: 180). Interestingly,
contrary to popular views and expectations of online discourse being a closer
representation of the spoken discourse, rather than staying mid-way, research
conducted by Yates (1996) proves that online discourse, on the textual level,
shares affinities with the written language. This observation confirms
the statement put forward much earlier by Crystal (2001: 42-43) regarding
the nature of web discourse (which he proposed to call Netspeak).
The language used in CMC is characterized by diversity (email
correspondence, for example, ranges from very formal to very informal): it is
influenced by variables such as the purpose of interaction (e.g. an official
invitation versus a private one), gender, age, status of participants, etc. (Herring
2007 and Androutsopolous 2006 stress a shift of focus from medium-related to
user-related patterns of language use, which brings a variety of group practices
to the centre of attention).
The debate about social media and their role develops around two
questions: do social media enable greater cross-cultural sharing by allowing
people access to information and frequent participation in public life, or do
they lead to disengagement. Existing research provides different answers (see
Bouvier 2015 for an overview). Although people use social media for personal
identity construction, and frame events into some pre-existing personal
interests, they still contribute information of civic relevance (see Hilbert 2009).
1.2. Immigration discourse, identity construction and the role of impoliteness
Immigration discourse per se has already been an object of extensive research.
Several important publications have come out on immigration discourse
(e.g. van Dijk 1984, 1987, 1991; van Leeuwen and Wodak 1996; Wodak 1996),
yet not on Polish immigration in Norway.
Racism, ethnicism and discrimination are some of the topics analysed
in the context of immigration. In the multidisciplinary account of theoretical
as well as empirical developments in the field of Critical Discourse Analysis
(CDA), edited by Hart and Cap (2014), Richardson and Colombo (2014)
describe racism encoded in both verbal and visual elements found in selected
political leaflets. T. van Dijk (2015) summarizes research devoted to racism
conducted since the eighties within the theoretical framework of CDA, where
he notes that three main areas of research can be identified: firstly, studies into
immigration seen as an integration problem of the minority presented
in newspapers; secondly, studies into political discourse related to immigration;
and finally, immigration presented in educational context (e.g. textbooks).
Reisigl and Wodak (2001) provide us with a discourse-analytical approach to
texts where the three key concepts mentioned above are latent; they show us
how to unmask the discriminatory meanings hidden in texts by means of five
discursive strategies. These strategies are as follows: (1) Nomination or
reference: looks at how social actors, objects, phenomena and events are named
and referred to linguistically; (2) Predication: examines characteristics
and features attributed to the actors, objects and phenomena;
(3) Argumentation: justifies truth claims and often relies on topoi (part of
argument schemes that can connect the premise of an argument to its
conclusion); (4) Perspectivization: positions the point of view of the producer
of a text; (5) Intensification or mitigation: modifies the force and status
of utterances. These strategies can be part of broader macro-strategies
(e.g. misrepresentation, (de)legitimation).
For example, the Hispanic context of immigration discourse has been
expounded by Martínez Lirola (2013), the context of Austrian immigration was
examined by Krzyanowski and Wodak 2009, the construction of French
and British immigration was delineated by Raymond and Modood (2007),
the European identity discourse was sought by Krzyanowski (2010), while
Dikötter (1997) explored the concept of the construction of racial identities in
China and Japan.
Methodologically, immigration discourse has been sought with the aid
of several schools within the paradigm of CDA, or a combination of them.
For example, Wodak’s discourse-historical approach, Leeuwen’s socio-semantic
approach and van Dijk’s socio-cognitive approach have been successfully
merged and applied to the analysis of the British press by KhosraviNik (2010,
2014). Hart (2011, 2015), on the other hand, proposes fusing CDA with
cognitive linguistics and construal operations.
Immigration discourse opens many questions of self- and other-
perceptions. Immigration as a phenomenon involves continuous (re)definitions
of identity and membership in a community. Studying immigration discourse
(specifically, discourse by immigrants, be it their stories or other genres) aids
developing knowledge about self-perception and identity formation among
immigrants, and may lead to a better understanding of the factors that help
immigrants either to integrate or contribute to their isolation within the host
society. Immigration discourse reveals valuable data about immigrants’ complex
Identity, impoliteness and integration in online immigration discourse
links to their home countries and host societies, giving insight into
communities that are often subject to stereotyping. A discursive approach to
identity in immigration discourse may focus on how the self is presented
in connection with others and in relation to social experiences. De Fina (2003)
analyzes these issues in a qualitative view on immigrants’ narratives by looking
at pronominal choices and voicing. Further, de Fina looks at the central
identification category for self and others, which is, according to her, ethnic
identification (“Hispanic” in her analysis).
While this paper hinges on the linguistic theoretical framework, it would
be a major omission not to mention publications devoted to Polish immigration
offered by other fields of knowledge, which provide a useful social and political
bedrock for any linguistic analysis of immigration discourse. An insightful
report on the state of the art of Polish immigration in Norway has been put
online recently. The report is the outcome of a conference organized
by the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Oslo, in November 20154.
The publication has been prepared jointly by Polish and Norwegian scholars
and practitioners representing various branches of business. So far, it seems to
be one of the most recent and comprehensive accounts of the current situation
of Polish immigration to Norway after the accession of Poland to the EU.
An anthropological standpoint, on the other hand, on Polish immigrants
in Oslo has been presented by M. Pawlak in his doctoral thesis (2012).
A meticulous sociological study on how Polish immigration has evolved
in Norway over the last seven decades has been offered by E. Olszewski (2011).
Not much research on CMC has focused on (im)politeness. This topic is
central to the special issue edited by Locher (2010), who considers
the following dimensions crucial in the relation between (im)politeness
research and CMC: (a) written records of the negotiations of norms found
online (interactants publicly discuss violations of expectations); (b) how
interpersonal issues are negotiated in online interaction, how they relate to
identity construction and the negotiation of face; and (c) specific restrictions
that the medium of CMC imposes on relational work/facework, and its
consequences for linguistic choices.
In one of the few studies thematizing explicitly CMC, identity and
impoliteness (concentrating on online comments) Upadhyay (2010) concludes
that interactants use impoliteness to communicate disagreements, to argue
against an outgroup’s views, and to discredit (ideological) opponents. By using
impoliteness the interactants identify themselves as individuals whose views
4 Available at:
are opposed to those of outgroup members. Impoliteness constitutes them as
social agents promoting a belief held by ingroup members. In line with Herring
(2007), Upadhyay (2010) suggests a link of anonymity and antisocial
behaviour/impoliteness; Donath (1997) emphasises the possibility of online
communication being antisocial. Nishimura (2008) indicates that impoliteness
could potentially destroy an online community.
Scarce research on impoliteness in online discourse shows that
impoliteness plays a role in negotiating cultural and community norms and
constructing (un)desirable group and individual identities. As Garcés-Conejos
Blitvich (2010) proves by analysing YouTube comments, positive impoliteness
strategies5 may create a strong sense of us versus them, intensify in-group
cohesiveness and reinforce its delimitation from the out-group by evaluating
the attributes linked to the out-group as undesirable. In addition to fostering
polarization, impoliteness can significantly contribute to the construction
of collective identities. Impoliteness creates an excluding sense of us versus
them by systematically attacking and delegitimizing others’ points of view,
beliefs, attitudes and behaviour patterns. Analysing CMD, specifically, two
academic online discussion fora, Angouri and Tseliga (2010) indicate that
strategies associated with impoliteness are used to express strong disagreement
and to aggravate face-threatening acts. They demonstrate that different micro-
strategies in and of themselves do not account for instances of impoliteness;
evaluations of impoliteness relate to different factors, such as conversation
topic and participants’ identity.
Disagreement is a rich area for the study of marked behaviour, including
impoliteness. It entails opposing views, and the escalation of disagreement can
potentially culminate in the breaching of norms of “appropriate” behaviour and
be negatively evaluated by the participants. Disagreement does not necessarily
involve language use that may be perceived by the interactants as impolite.
Rather, it can challenge the boundaries of “politic” or appropriate linguistic
behaviour when it includes conflictual interactions (Graham 2007, Norrick and
Spitz 2008).
5 Strategies designed to damage an addressee’s positive face wants by, for example, excluding him or her, being disinterested, using taboo words etc. Negative impoliteness refers to strategies designed to damage an addressee’s negative face want by being condescending, frightening the addressee or invading the addressee’s space.
Identity, impoliteness and integration in online immigration discourse
1.3. Impoliteness and impoliteness strategies Although it was Culpeper (1996) who introduced the topic of impoliteness into
the wider academic discussion, other approaches to impoliteness have also been
developed, notably by Bousfield (2008). Despite its popularity
as a methodological tool applied to studies anchored to varying cultural,
linguistic and social contexts over the last twenty years, Culpeper’s taxonomy
of impoliteness strategies has received a lot of critical comments from a number
of scholars. For example, as Bousfield notices, Culpeper claims that his model is
open-ended, viz. the strategies can be enriched to include other possible
examples of interactions. This flexibility of the model, according to Bousfield,
may be its weakness as it lacks a clear-cut set of finite strategies, and with the
whole inventory of possible examples, the model might be “impervious
to counterexamples”. Bousfield (2008: 92) also sees inconsistency in the new
impoliteness model proposed by Culpeper (2005), as the new definition
of “positive impoliteness” does not seem to be convergent with all strategies
which instantiate it. Moreover, Bousfield criticizes Culpeper for the excessive
reliance on Brown and Levinson’s typology of politeness in the sense that
in both Brown and Levinson’s politeness theory and Culpeper’s impoliteness
theory the analyses are decontextualised (Bousfield, 2008). Culpeper (2016)
admits that his later redefinitions of impoliteness did not rely so much on
Goffman’s concept of face and allowed other cases to arise (for example, by
depriving others of their rights rather than deliberate face-inflicting
Importantly, Culpeper (2016: 428) acknowledges, following a critique
of his strategies expounded by some other scholars, that the strategy “bold on
record impoliteness” is difficult to distinguish from both positive and negative
impoliteness and that this problematic category has been inadequately
exemplified in his study (1996); as a result, it is questionable. Likewise, some
other strategies and superstrategies are challenged on the grounds of being
unclear or overlapping. Further to that, Culpeper agrees with Blas Arroyo
(2001: 22 in Culpeper 2016) who notices that the criteria used in Culpeper’s
taxonomy are inconsistent: while some relate to purely linguistic
and discourse-oriented aspects, others involve physical or interactional
behaviour. The fluidity of his taxonomy is openly admitted by Culpeper (2016:
428), who states that “it is absolutely the case that one and the same strategy
can often be viewed from different perspectives” and, with respect to positive
vs. negative face, that “much depends on how the research orients to those
categories” (Culpeper 2016: 442). On the other hand, Culpeper (2011: 255-256)
also emphasises that impoliteness formulae and strategies are not isolated but
contextualised in impoliteness events, and thus he disagrees with Bousfield’s
criticism mentioned above.
An important factor pertinent to the study of im/politeness is the notion
of intentionality, as well as the recognition of intention which relates to
rudeness. Culpeper (2005) admits that in his early definition of impoliteness
intentionality was the key concept: impoliteness occurs when the sender is
intentionally impolite (attacks the addressee’s face) and the hearer perceives
the intentionality of the sender’s face attack (2005: 38). This requirement
of intentionality was later cancelled by Culpeper himself. After all, one may be
unintentionally impolite or impoliteness could not be assessed by the addressee
as such. These observations have shifted the centre of gravity in impoliteness
studies onto the addressee by suggesting that impoliteness should be analysed
solely from the perspective of the receiver. The redefined version
of the concept emphasizes not only the role of the addressee but also the notion
of expectancy, i.e. impoliteness takes place when there is a conflict between
the current behaviour of the sender and what one expects, wants or thinks
should be said or done (Culpeper et al. 2003; Culpeper 2011: 254).
The notion of expectancies relates Culpeper’s recent research to Kádár and
Haugh (2013) views: the authors see im/politeness as a social practice implying
that im/politeness does not relate to a particular linguistic form per se. Instead,
im/politeness resides in evaluations of those forms in a social setting. It arises
through evaluations of social actions and meanings. These evaluations are
rooted in a moral order (Kádár and Haugh 2013: 73, 251).
The issue of intentionality, or lack of it, in the context of juxtaposing
impoliteness with rudeness, has been taken up, inter alia, by Bousfield (2010)
and Terkourafi (2008). While Bousfield proposes a set of criteria used to
distinguish between the two notions, Terkourafi associates impoliteness with
unintentional and rudeness with intentional face aggravation.
Interestingly, Watts (1989) drifts away from the dichotomous division
between what is polite and what is impolite and in lieu of these notions,
understood as mutually exclusive, he proposes a tripartite typology
encompassing three types of behaviour – politic, non-politic and polite –
whereby more fluidity is allowed between politeness and impoliteness
(interpretation is based on marked vs. unmarked behavior). Terkourafi (2008)
takes one step further and suggests a unified theory to engulf not only
impoliteness and rudeness but also to combine them with the notion
of politeness. This approach only shows how fluid and difficult it may be for
researchers to capture these concepts. Notwithstanding past and current
Identity, impoliteness and integration in online immigration discourse
discussion, a clear dividing line between impoliteness and rudeness remains
difficult to pinpoint.
Despite the criticism expressed on Culpeper’s taxonomy of impoliteness
and some adjustments introduced to the model by Culpeper himself, it still
remains a very influential proposal. The method of analysis used in this paper
follows thus Culpeper’s (1996) taxonomy of impoliteness strategies, as the
critical comments expressed about impoliteness classification, notably by
Bousfield, do not seem to be relevant for our study, and the taxonomy per se
presents the problem of impoliteness in a comprehensive and concise way.
The strategies presented in our analysis are illustrative of both positive and
negative impoliteness; however, not all strategies proposed by Culpeper are
fully represented in our data. This is partially due to the fact that the data
illustrate web-based type of interaction, where replies are delayed, the
participants are deprived of non-verbal behaviour and the whole load
of information is packed in the verbal mode, occasionally accompanied by
emoticons, which makes the material under scrutiny different from other types
of data analysed by impoliteness theorists (e.g. face-to-face interaction).
The linguistic capacity in online interaction is thus crucial due to technical
constraints of the medium of communication (including both space and time
restrictions). The template for the present analysis is therefore as follows (cited
after Culpeper 1996: 357-358):
Positive impoliteness strategies
1. Ignore, snub the other – fail to acknowledge the other’s presence.
2. Exclude the other from an activity.
3. Disassociate from the other – for example, deny association or common
ground with the other; avoid sitting together.
4. Be disinterested, unconcerned, unsympathetic.
5. Use inappropriate identity markers – for example, use title and surname
when a close relationship pertains, or a nickname when a distant
relationship pertains.
6. Use obscure or secretive language – for example, mystify the other with
jargon, or use a code known to others in the group, but not the target.
7. Seek disagreement – select a sensitive topic.
8. Make the other feel uncomfortable – for example, do not avoid silence, joke,
or use small talk.
9. Use taboo words – swear or use abusive or profane language.
10. Call the other names – use derogatory nominations.
Negative impoliteness strategies
1. Frighten – instill a belief that action detrimental to the other will occur.
2. Condescend, scorn or ridicule – emphasize your relative power. Be
contemptuous. Do not treat the other seriously. Belittle the other (e.g. use
3. Invade the other’s space – literally (e.g. position yourself closer to the other
than the relationship permits) or metaphorically (e.g. ask for or speak about
information which is too intimate given the relationship).
4. Explicitly associate the other with a negative aspect – personalize, use
the pronouns ‘I’ and ‘you’.
5. Put the other's indebtedness on record.
2. Data collection and method
2.1. Data collection As our data come largely from forums, they reveal many commonalities with
the spoken discourse (more than e.g. blogs), in particular informal language.
The informality may be noticed not only in the choice of words typical of the
spoken discourse (interjections, slang, swearing) but also in occasional spelling
mistakes, frequent lack of capitalization, neglected punctuation marks
and diacritics, and, oftentimes, relaxed syntax (e.g. unfinished sentences,
violated grammatical rules). The texts are also marked for spontaneity,
the language is frequently emotional, the topics tend to shift abruptly, and they
express highly subjective opinions6. These features are typically representative
of the spoken discourse (Biber et al. 1999).
The data have been collected as part of the project on immigration
discourse run by the University of Oslo. They have been teased out from online
materials, largely from forums, yet some references will also be made to articles
(and commentaries underneath) and blogs devoted to Polish immigration
in Norway.
About one hundred fifty identified participants have been registered
in our data under anonymous names (authors of posts) or as authors of blogs
6 iek (1997), however, indicates that language in forums and blogs lacks “subjectivization” – users of a forum can intervene and disappear, leave a harsh comment and leave or come back later. They can escape the consequences of what they have said. Discussion threads can therefore quickly disintegrate. Additional issue is the proportion between participants and lurkers – Johnson (2001) indicates that due to the imbalance between the two a forum can be less interactive than a face-to- face lecture or a conversation around the dinner table.
Identity, impoliteness and integration in online immigration discourse
and feature or opinion articles on immigration portals. The corpus, which
currently amounts to ca. 17,000 tokens (ca. 130 online comments), is still
growing7. The material which constitutes our corpus has not been copied
automatically from online resources; rather, it has been manually carved out
from online texts with the aim of creating a pool of data representing opinions
expressed by Polish immigration living in Norway on Norway and Norwegians
vs. Poland and Poles, with the view of revealing the sense of national identity
of the Polish immigrants in Norway and the degree of their integration into the
host society and culture. For this very reason, extended original passages were
often omitted while compiling the corpus and what was ultimately considered
as valid for the corpus were only fragments extracted from threads on forums,
which were queried for carefully selected words (e.g. homeland, Polishness,
nation, patriotism, etc.) that were expected to elicit the concept of national
identity. Of the over 130 online comments found on the internet, which
constitute our current immigration corpus, 25 were selected for this analysis.
These were carefully selected out of the host of examples of impoliteness
in order to show a representative sample of both the problems of identity
of Polish immigrants in Norway and the type of impoliteness endorsed
in the study. The corpus material contains narratives (for example, when
discourse participants write about what they consider impolite in relation to
some Poles or Norwegians) as well as non-narratives, in particular descriptions
or sheer exclamations.
2.2. Method of analysis The present study focuses on online discourse, where no face-to-face
and immediate interaction is possible, and hence impoliteness is not readily
observable on-site; rather, reactions result from reading a written message.
This requires some adaptation of the existing typologies of impoliteness. For
example, cases of exclusion, dissociation from others or ignoring somebody’s
presence are not directly discernible in the discourse situations under study, yet
they are described by forum users as part of their own observations. Therefore,
although vicarious and, thus, dwindled, they constitute important narrations or
description of impoliteness germane to our study. Aside from these space and
time constraints stemming from the lack of immediate communication, these
7The data presented in this section constitute of part of an on-going international project Discourses of the Nation and the National, led by the University in Oslo, Department of Literature, Areas Studies and European Languages.
verbal expressions are also a good source of information and may convincingly
provide samples of impolite behaviour. Of the ten types of positive impoliteness
distinguished by Culpeper, the following have been found and are described
in what follows: ignore, snub the other, fail to acknowledge the other’s
presence; exclude the other from an activity; dissociate from the other;
be disinterested, unconcerned, unsympathetic; use obscure or secretive
language; use taboo words, swear or use abusive or profane language; and call
the other names, use derogatory nominations. The categories of negative
impoliteness represented in our data include: frighten; condescend, scorn or
ridicule – emphasise your relative power, be contemptuous, belittle the other;
and explicitly associate the other with a negative aspect. These categories tend
to overlap in some cases, hence the final typology used in this paper is
simplified and it falls into three categories: (1) ignore and exclude; (2) dissociate
and be unsympathetic (including examples illustrating the category of obscure
or secretive language); and (3) call the other names and use derogatory
nominations and vulgar words, condescend, scorn and ridicule.
Taking into account the fact that the examples presented below illustrate
derogatory nominations used in the contexts of condescending remarks
and explicit association of the other with a negative aspect, the third category
merges positive impoliteness with negative impoliteness. Examples of swearing
and abusive or profane language are present across the above-mentioned
2.3. Ignore and exclude The first category identified in our analysis of online discussions and narratives
is “Ignore, snub the other – fail to acknowledge the other’s presence”.
The fragment below presents a specific situation where Poles complain about
unfair treatment at work in a Norwegian setting: they claim that they feel
ignored and excluded. In light of the common perception of Norway as being
famous for its egalitarianism and equality, such cases as the samples below run
counter to one’s expectations, revealing a different attitude of some Norwegians
to immigrants, beyond the legal cover, especially to labour workers, and cast
doubts on whether foreigners are treated in the same way as Norwegians.
A handful of examples narrating unfair treatment and marginalization of,
or even discrimination against Polish workers at work can be found in our
corpus in relation to lower salary standards and poorer working conditions.
In sample (1) Poles feel ignored by cooks at canteens and believe that
Norwegians are treated more favourably.
Identity, impoliteness and integration in online immigration discourse
(1) A Norwegian comes last to the canteen but he talks to the cook and gets his
pork chop first, even though Poles ordered the very same pork chop much
earlier.8 [MN.AK.16.15]
The second category of description used in the narratives under inspection,
although closely related to the first one, and sometimes even overlapping, is
“Exclude the other from an activity”. The example below encodes both the
category of exclusion, in the context of health problems, and the ignorance
of trade unions. The topic of dismissing Poles while being on sick leave is
discussed on forums in thematic threads devoted specifically to such cases9.
(2) I’ve been working in Norway for eight years. I have been on sick leave
for 7 months and I have already had 2 meetings [with the boss]. Unfortunately,
clearly the employer wants to get rid of me from the factory because he even
doesn’t try to propose a different post for me, instead he recommends dismissal.
My health problems stem from the type of work I’ve been doing and that’s why
the best solution for me is a change of my workplace. I myself suggested three
different posts I am qualified for. Unfortunately, I met with a refusal,
and the main reason was, apparently, a lack of posts. To make the thing funnier,
after a short period of time some posts were found for other people, and for one
type of work 5 new employees were hired. I have had no conflict with
the employer, and I have done my work honestly and diligently. I have no idea
what the problem is and why it is easier for the employer to hire new people
rather than let an experienced employer return to work. Before long I will have
the third meeting and I’m afraid that since the employer has hired new
employees for the posts I could have he will announce to me that there is no
work for me and in agreement with NAV he will press on me to give up my job
myself. I have contacted a person from trade unions, who works in our factory,
but he turned out to be rather ineffective. I don’t really know who I can ask for
help. I feel discriminated and I think that my rights were violated. [FN.103.16]
More examples that challenge the Norwegian egalitarianism and equality are
presented below. In fact, they expose the superficiality or inefficiency
of the system, as can be observed in the narrative of exclusion of some Poles
from the labour market. Poles are badly treated by their employers, civil
servants and other Norwegians they encounter in their milieu on an everyday
basis. This phenomenon, known as social and wage dumping, has been
8 The translated versions of the original citations are somewhat polished, with some extra words occasionally added in square brackets to sketch the missing information from context and thus to enhance comprehensibility. 9 For example the thread “Zwolninie na sykelmeldingu” or “Pracodawca ignoruje pracownika na zwolnieniu lekarskim” (
identified in sociological research as being tightly associated with Polish
workers coming to Norway who often fall victims to illegal practices and social
injustice. This happens due to, for example, no knowledge of the Norwegian
labour market, the judicial system, the Norwegian language and their rights as
workers. As a result, they are unable to pitch to the local labour market
demands and, if need be, claim their rights on their own (see Anio 2014
and Garstecki, 2014, for more details). Their ignorance of the Norwegian law
and its labour market has a bearing on Polish workers’ social and legal status.
Reportedly, they are excluded from pay roll lists, they are refused their legal
remuneration, dismissed from work, rejected by property owners
in the property hiring process, etc.
(3) Poles in Norway have problems with the employers-they are badly treated,
remuneration is not paid, [they have problems] with the neighbours, with
exacting their laws in local governments, with renting a flat, children have
problems with integration at school. [FN.F.30.07]
(4) Hello, I have a similar problem, it’s about the directive, the agency cheats us
and we are not paid the rates [which apply to other workers] in the factory, we
are working in a fish factory, what can we do about it and where to submit
[a complaint about] it. [MN.AK.15.13]
The issue of unpaid remunerations causes a lot of unrest and anxiety among
Polish labour workers. The problem has recently been publicized in both
Norwegian and Polish newspapers due to several well-known cases of Poles
suing Norwegian employers10. The cases have also prompted heated discussions
on Polish forums and portals run by Poles living in Norway11. Many cases were
won (by Polish lawyers from Norway), which only proves that the complaints
shared online may not be completely unwarranted12.
Exclusion is perceived as being based on the country of origin, that is,
Norwegian perceptions and attitudes related to it. These attitudes are triggered
by some overt “identity labels”, such as names. This seems to be a pressing
problem to the extent that some Poles consider taking a rather desperate step
10 For example:,76842,14331715,Upominasz_sie_o_swoje_prawa__zostajesz_ zwolniony__.html 11 For example the thread “Polka wyrzucona z pracy za...mówienie po polsku” on the portal 12 More cases won by Garstecki Advokatfirma are described at: media/.
Identity, impoliteness and integration in online immigration discourse
of changing their first or even second name as they find it difficult to get a job
with a name which does not sound like Norwegian.
(5) Recently some friends of mine declared that they were going to change their
first and last name because they had had great difficulties to find a job with
personal data that sounded non-norwegian13. [FN.96.14]
(6) …but the very fact that you have a non-Norwegian forename causes
a situation that you become a person of second category. If you have also a non-
Norwegian surname, you fall to a third category. Let’s note that so far we have
not come to any concrete facts, we don’t know anything about a man, we don’t
know his age, education, past, we don’t know what he looks like… We only
know his forename and surname, both non-Norwegian and we are already
people of a third category. [MN.AK.1.15]
Narratives about exclusion and discrimination based on the country of origin,
lack of competence in Norwegian and a name that sounds foreign (Polish) is,
unfortunately, confirmed by a Polish lawyer living in Norway, who openly
admits, on the strength of his professional practice as a barrister14, that
the problem of social and wage dumping, discrimination and breaking the law
while hiring Polish immigrants is commonplace.
Strangely enough, Poles do not defer from complaining that they are
discriminated against by other Poles, for example, employees in a job agency.
There is even an informal saying circulating in the Polish community that
the worst boss one can have is a Polish boss. Similar examples to (6) illustrate
in-group divisions.
(7) in adecco a Polish woman looked through my papers, turned round and said
that there was no work. [FN.49.07]
2.4. Dissociate and be unsympathetic The third category according to Culpeper is “Dissociate from the other”.
Interestingly, this category found in online discussions/narrative may be
illustrated by two types of dissociation.
The first example below describes a well-known fact that Polish
immigration divides the community into two distinct groups: those who are
hostile towards other Poles and those who are helpful and supportive.
13 All the translations preserve the features of the original text, i.e. there may be no capitalization, and erroneous or no punctuation marks. 14 See the full article at:,1356,title,Polacy-w-Norwegii-druga- kategoria-obywateli-Wraca-sprawa-Polaka-skazanego-za-pozar-w-Drammen,wid,17289727, wiadomosc.html?ticaid=116bcb 243
Unfortunately, most comments online evidence the frequent phenomenon
subscribing to the first case. As a result, some Poles dissociate themselves from
the bothersome compatriots who are jealous, hostile and unsupportive, and,
oftentimes, quarrelsome, vulgar and heavy drinkers (they are often called
“polaczki”). Such framing conceptualizes two opposite camps and induces
the identification of the author with outsiders relative to the criticized group,
yet within the Polish immigration community. This dissociation is
demonstrated, for example, by avoiding speaking Polish in public places or
pretending not to understand Polish while in public places:
(8) Poland can be divided into poles and “polaczki”. The latter are glad when
a compatriot fails to achieve success abroad. They forgot why they left their
country. Personally, I only encounter the latter [group of Poles] so when I hear
Poles I never speak Polish and I do not admit that I’m Polish, because you never
know who you come across…it is strange as other expats try to stick together.
Polish immigration that has managed to integrate into the Norwegian society
and immerse into the Norwegian culture tends to dissociate from part
of the Polish immigration community, especially from those who do not thrive
on the labour market or have temporary jobs (usually as construction site
workers) and often travel back to Poland (dubbed “polaczki”, or “cebulaki”; see
below for details).
(9) I am the one who is embarrassed to be Polish, unfortunately, that’s why I am
no longer [a Pole], I’m changing my surname,... I’m adding this for you, fuck,
you simple Polish man, as you are not even able to realize what a simple
thickhead you are. [MN.F.22.15]
The term frequently used in relation to Polish immigration in a pejorative way
is “economic worker” (“pracownik zarobkowy”). It is used even by Poles
themselves to describe their status, especially by those who do not feel
integrated with the Norwegian society and perceive themselves as temporary
workers and migrants, rather than permanent immigrants.
(10) You know what? Generally, I don’t care what norway15 does with their
immigrants as it’s their problem. I’m here, as somebody has written,
an economic worker (i.e. labour migration). [MN.AK.9.15]
15 All punctuation and spelling mistakes in the translated texts (translations from Polish by: A.B.) are left in the English citations on purpose as they reflect the errors present in the original texts or language simplifications so typical of the informal language used in social media, which tends to imitate the spoken discourse.
Identity, impoliteness and integration in online immigration discourse
In a discussion on Polish emigration in the EU, Poles were described as “murzyni
Europy” (the Negroes of Europe) by one of the forum users, which is telling and,
regrettably, matches the general picture of a Polish emigrant seen as a skilled
and cheap (often underpaid) blue collar worker (cf. the “Polish plumber”16).
In a fragment below, a Polish employee describes her employer, who also treats
Poles like sambos, a cheap labour, people who are exploited at work and have no
labour rights.
(11) if Poles agree to work for 4 pounds then let them work their arse...shame,
it’s their choice...pity, as because of them we are perceived as the “Negros
of Europe”. [MN.7.15]
Many Poles are perceived as poor East European immigrants who come to
Norway seeking better economic living conditions. With Poles entering
the Norwegian labour market after the accession of Poland to the EU in 2004,
the appearance of cheap labour on the Norwegian market (and even more on
the British market) can be observed. To avoid social and wage dumping,
in 2007 minimum wage in the construction branch was established in Norway
(Garstecki 2014: 36), yet this has not changed the perception of a cheap
immigration labour force by both Norwegians and other immigrants, including
Poles. The bifurcation of the Norwegian labour market is still observed in its
structure, with well-paid, safe, stable and secure jobs offered mainly to
Norwegians and employees with high qualifications vs. mostly temporary, low-
paying jobs and lower standards accepted largely by temporary migrants,
popular in such labour market segments as construction work and some
services (caring, cleaning, repair, harvesting, processing) (Anio 2014: 22).
The other group of comments, illustrating the category of dissociation,
is targeted at Norwegians. As indicated by our data, Norwegians demonstrate
explicitly that foreigners, including Poles, will always remain immigrants,
i.e. second-class citizens, and that there is no hope for immigrants ever to be
treated by the natives like compatriots. Here, the indigenous allocate Poles
to the outsider group. Example (12) negatively evaluates Norwegians in relation
to their attitude to work:
(12) Constantly, every day, they make it clear to us that we are only hirelings...:)
It was difficult for me too but if you want to stay here then get used to it, ease up
or go home... [MN.F.10.12]
16 The image of a “Polish plumber” was popularized in France in 2005 as a negative symbol of excessive cheap labour coming to France from Central Europe.
(13) You are a Pole and Your child is also a Pole – NEVER, at least in the eyes
of an average Norwegian, will you be a Norwegian. ALWAYS (in the perception
of a Norwegian, a bit less in the case of a Swede) on the territory of the Kingdom
[of Norway] will one be a “lower” category type – don’t be taken in by
the warm, insipid smile of the Norwegians, nor by the enforced formal equal
rights (this must be admitted). [MN.F.14.15]
(14) has anybody seen a sweaty norwegian at work? I have! Not once!
He climbed on the second floor and was really sweaty. They are not used to
work. They have money and people who work for them. That’s all one can say
about them. [MN.F.3.15]
A reason for isolation of the Polish community from the Norwegian society is
sometimes sought in the lack of knowledge of the Norwegian language, which
is noticed by Poles themselves. Some Poles seem to refuse to learn Norwegian
or to improve their competence in the language of the host country, which can
be easily honed in practice while living in Norway. They are also reluctant
to enhance their competence in English, which can be easily used as
the language of everyday communication in Norway. As a result, with no
communicative skills in either of the two languages used in Norway, they are
doomed to isolation. This issue is often discussed online.
Interestingly, in line with the narratives shared by some forum users,
Poles with no language skills tend to be more critical of Norway
and Norwegians.
(15) indeed, most of the persons I met expresses negative opinions about
Norwegians. I analysed who are those friends of mine and they are mainly
working class people, they often work illegally, don’t speak Norwegian at all,
and their English is, at best, at pass mark level. So, their opinion stems from their
own complexes and from the fact that they themselves isolate [from the society]
through their lack of competence in any of the two languages. [FN.95.14]
(16) Ah well, what I meant was that we are treated badly at work I was in
a situation when “norek” told me that I was there to bust [my arse] so to speak
and that I was to do the worst job here and that he treated in this way all
the foreigners who worked there, that for him we were the negroes I went to
see the boss about it but he did not see any problem in that, according to him
everything is ok. [MN.F.9.12]
2.5. Call the other names – use derogatory nominations and vulgar words
The next category of positive politeness analysed in this paper is naming.
This referential strategy is represented by a great number of examples
Identity, impoliteness and integration in online immigration discourse
in the corpus: it is usually realized through derogatory nomination and member
categorization. Examples of nomination found in the corpus illustrate two
cases: naming Norwegians and naming Poles.
On the whole, in the online discussions Poles notice a number of positive
aspects in the Norwegians, their lifestyle, habits, traditions and mentality, and
the comments in posts are replete with admiration and praise of a stereotypical
Norwegian. However, since forums, Facebook, YouTube, etc., are places
of unrestrained self-expression, where people can present their opinions freely,
usually with little or no restrictions at all (moderators on forums occasionally
delete some posts), severe criticism is not uncommon. When presented
in the negative terms, Norwegians are described by the Internet users by
resorting to several labels. Quite often, Norwegians at large are seen as “gbury”
(boors, yobs) [MN.AK.1.14; FN.F.24.14], as well as “pyszaki” (coxcombs)
[FN.F.24.14]. On a less critical note, they are conceived of as not too clever,
uncomplicated and shallow as well as with double morality [FN.F.12.08],
and rather cold and clammed, at least on the surface [NP.B.1.14].
Poles receive enormous criticism from their compatriots. The derogatory
labels most often endorsed include the coined neologism “polonorki” as well as
some other more frequently used terms, such as “polaczki”, “buraki”, “cebulaki”
(or its diminutive “cebulaczki”). “Polaczki” is an ironic diminutive form
of the word Poles (in original: Polacy), which has general negative
connotations. The term is used to denote quarrelsome and petty-minded
people, as well as rapacious and cunning, people who look down on other
immigrants, referring to them by such terms as “ciapate” (“camel jockey”,
a racially-tinged slang term denoting Pakistanis, Indians or other dark-skinned
immigrants). “Polaczki” are also qualified as racists, and the negative features
of a typical “Polaczek” achieve the worst dimension in the case of those who
have a relatively low social status:
(17) Unfortunately, the lower the social status of a “polaczek”, the greater racist
and conceited lout he is. [MN.AK.4.15]
Discussion about the national status and the feeling of affiliation to Polish
immigration diaspora or the Norwegian society is often spotted with
vulgarisms, which shows how much emotions are triggered by the problem
of integration and the sense of national identity.
(18) And who the fuck do you think you are? polaczek [vocative].
“Buraki” (pl., beetroots) and “cebulaki” (pl., a neologism coined from the word
“cebula”, i.e. an onion) also imply negative associations: while a “burak”
is an ill-mannered, not-too-intelligent bumpkin, “cebulak” also makes
reference to bumpkins but in addition to that triggers an image of a person who
is jealous and envious, and who is excessively mean and loutish.
(19) Polaczek cebulaczek-buraczek feels good when he insults others, calls them
names, like ciapate and czarnuch [Nigro], he will be proud that he speaks
Norwegian to his child at home and, generally speaking, he is more Norwegian
than the Norwegians. [MN.F.4.15]
As for “polonorki”, this term is a compound noun which combines “polo”,
associated with Poles (more precisely with “polaczek”), and “norki”, associated
with Norwegians. “Norek” is the worst epitomization of a Norwegian, one who
does not pay wages on time and exploits his or her employees. The concept
of “polonorek” has been described on one of the portals run by Poles
in Norway17 where a number of citations from forums were adduced
( and “Polonorek” thus denotes a person
who shares features of both nations – unfortunately, however, the worst
features typically ascribed to Poles and Norwegians.
A Polonorek is a person who expresses strong contempt for Poles living
in Norway as well as for Poland and Poles living in Poland, who tries to
integrate with the indigenous (thus speaks Norwegian and meets only
Norwegians) and glorifies Norway, and at the same time ostensively cuts off
from his Polish roots, so that he tries “to be more Norwegian than
the Norwegians”. They are often representatives of the nouveau riche social
class, who made a fortune through illegal business, often hiring compatriots
and mistreating them or putting the skids under them. One forum user
described “polonorek” as follows:
(20) Personally, to me Polonorek is a kind of nation-less person, neither Polish
nor Norwegian – a kind of shit glued to a shoe of a Norwegian farmer.
The material found in our corpus abounds in language soaked in insults.
The categories that will be illustrated by our corpus material involve two types
of negative impoliteness proposed by Culpeper, namely (1) condescend, scorn
or ridicule (emphasize your relative power, be contemptuous, do not treat
the other seriously, belittle the other) and (2) explicitly associate the other with
a negative aspect (personalize, use the pronouns ‘I’ and ‘you’). These categories
are merged into one as in most cases the empirical material is illustrative
of both notions.
While participating in a heated discussion on Poles in Norway, some
participants of a popular forum started to attack each other; in particular one
of the forum users was aggressive and used vulgar words. Eventually, he
switched into Norwegian as, obviously, he suspected that the other person he
quarrelled with did not know Norwegian well enough (if at all) to be able
to exchange arguments with him. The fact that he started to use Norwegian
dissociates him from his interlocutor. The discussion was about the situation
of Poles in the labour market. The type of negative impoliteness illustrated by
the citation below is “condescend, scorn or ridicule”. The author is
contemptuous and emphasises his power over the addressee.
(21) Can you participate in this quarrel too. You are another dyed Pole. Who are
you – another Polish Tosk [?]. Try to quarrel with me you “swine”. [MN.F.9.15]
The interlocutor was labelled “swine” and “dyed Pole”; the former term is
vulgar, while the latter encodes aggression towards Poles who pretend to be
Norwegians and who tend to be cut off from their Polish identity. Other forum
users evaluated this impoliteness explicitly by noticing that the two
interlocutors were extremely impolite to each other. Crucially, one user made
a digression on the matter at hand, speculating that if Poles treat other Poles
living abroad with disrespect, this may be the reason, according to the forum
user, why Norwegians show disrespect towards Poles living in Norway.
This fragment also concurs with another category proposed by Culpeper as part
of positive impoliteness, namely “Use obscure or secretive language – for
example, mystify the other with jargon, or use a code known to others in the
group, but not the target”. Yet another example with the word swine shows
how Poles express their severe criticism towards other Poles, for example when
pinpointing such features as manifesting superiority to other nations.
(22) You are a classic Polish swine, who confirms the existence of a Polish
swine, i.e. that there is such a creature in the world as the Polish swine that
doesn’t know who he is, and who would like to trample anybody who seems
to be different, but he is not aware that these narrow hooves are of little avail
because he is only slaughterhouse game. [MN.F.6.15]
The next fragment may illustrate one of the previous category of dissociation,
yet it is ascribed to the category of calling names as it contains vulgar language
and derogatory nominations (dog, burak). It also encodes the intention of being
condescending to the interlocutor, which is achieved by explicit association
of the interlocutor with a negative aspect using the pronoun „you”
and the label „burak”.
(23) you dyed norwegian yourself are a burak from somewhere around
Warsaw [MN.F.7.15]
Another example of negative impoliteness illustrated by the category
of “condescend, scorn or ridicule” as well as “explicitly associate the other with
a negative aspect” is connected with the notion of Polonorki. Polonorki trigger
disrespect, disdain and contempt; the emergence of this group of Poles is
evident in discussions about national identity. Severe criticism and strong
emotions often entail the use of vulgarisms. Both polonorki and
buraki/polaczki/cebulaki trigger criticism and strong emotions.
(24) if you don’t want to be a Pole then I don’t care...but don’t offend other
Poles you norwegian whore. [MN.F.3.15]
The next example of negative impoliteness is a post in which a Pole criticizes
another forum user for boasting that s/he does not know Norwegian (or for
pretending not to know it) at work, as that sheds bad light on the whole Polish
immigration community. The author of the post occasionally switches into
Norwegian while decrying the ignorant user. In this way, the author expresses
dissociation from the Polish minority having a smattering of Norwegian
language, by creating some “us” versus “them” division within the Polish
immigration community. In the example below a condescending voice can be
sensed, as well as scorn and ridicule, which would justify its classification in
the “condescend, scorn and ridicule” category, according to Culpeper’s
typology. The author directly belabours the addressee with insults (damn
pussy, monkey] and uses a very strong language.
(25) You are so “jævlig pingle” [damn pussy] if you don’t know who that is then
ask out as probably you are often called like that at work, or “ape” [monkey], he,
he, he. [MN.F.8.15]
3. Concluding remarks
The impoliteness strategies presented above illustrate impoliteness expressed or
shown by Poles towards other Poles living in Norway, by Poles towards
Norwegians or by Norwegians towards Poles. Most interestingly, the majority
of comments show impoliteness expressed by Poles towards other Poles, which
is a striking observation suggesting that some Polish immigrants do not seem
to feel the need to integrate and/or identify with their compatriots, or at least
Identity, impoliteness and integration in online immigration discourse
a part of them. In consequence, social ingroups and outgroups are created
within the Polish immigration community, with comments targeted at
“the others”, mainly the other Poles, imbued with hatred and insulting
language. Insulting language is a means of establishing distance between “us”
and “them”.
Given the online data of immigration discourse gathered in the project
on national identity re/construction, the Polish diaspora in Norway seems to be
integrated but only to some extent, i.e. within the subgroups that clearly
emerge. Poles are divided into those who maintain their Polish identity
and those who feel more Norwegian than Polish. A strong contempt is
expressed in online discourse by a group of Poles for both those Poles who
identify only with the Norwegians (the so-called Polonorki) as well as for those
Poles who do not wish to take any measures to adjust to (integrate with)
the host country (e.g. those who do not learn the Norwegian language, are
critical of Norway and the Norwegians, etc.).
Very strong emotions are unlocked in the discussions of identity and
integrity found in our online material. Semi-public discussions of identity
issues are frequently coupled with strong emotions, and these are related to
various impoliteness realizations. The anonymity of the internet certainly
promotes impunity of its users, which in turn provokes unrestrained, blatantly
impolite or even vulgar verbal behaviours expressing debasing, disparaging or
vituperative attitudes. The corpus of online data briefly presented in this study
is only a case in point, as it is replete with copious examples of impolite
language and explicit description of impolite behaviour.
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